Masaya Nakamura dies at 91
Masaya Nakamura, one of the men that made arcade gaming mainstream, dies at 91. Image: Wired.

Masaya Nakamura, founder of Namco and “father of Pac-Man, ” died on January 22, Bandai Namco announced on Monday. The Japanese visionary was a pioneer in arcade gaming and held several titles for his success in the industry.

Bandai Namco released a statement on their website about Nakamura’s death, providing no details about the cause and asking the world to respect the family’s privacy.

The company also said there were plans underway for a public memorial, aside from the private funeral and wake which have already been held following his death. Nakamura was 91 at the moment of his passing.

Masaya Nakamura built Namco from the ground up

Born on December 24, 1925, in Yokohama, Japan, Nakamura led what would be an unusual yet successful life.

The man who found one of the most iconic video game companies to this day started as a shipbuilding student at Yokohama National University.

Following World War II, Masaya Nakamura looked directly at the face of adversity and saw a growing opportunity in amusement rides, setting up shop on a department store roof.

He installed a carnival-like type of trip, consisting of two wooden horses that children rode as they went in circles around a pole. The year was 1955 and Nakamura Manufacturing was born with a small but honorable success.

A couple of years later, the company would take a sharp turn with the appearance of arcade machines. Nakamura Amusement Machine Manufacturing Company (Namco) came to be, and nobody expected what would come next.

The legacy of the “Father of Pac-Man”

During the 70s, the rise of arcade gaming became apparent, and Mayasa Nakamura was ready to make the most of it. Following his gut, he led Namco to buy Atari’s Japanese division for $500,000.

The deal granted the company with the capabilities to release games and develop their arcade machines, both of which they did well enough to still be around nearly 40 years later.

Their first hit was Galaxian, a Space Invaders kind of game that was the first to have sprites in different colors. A year later, in 1980, Pac-Man was born out of the mind of a 25-year-old Namco engineer called Toru Iwatami.

The iconic game became an instant classic. Pac-Man sprawled into a worldwide phenomenon invading the mainstream market, from TV passing through food and merchandise to music and collectible items.

Namco went on to develop an even bigger sequel, Ms. Pac-Man, and huge titles like Galaga, Pole Position, and Dig Dug. Pac-Man entered the Guiness World Records Book as the most successful coin-operated game in history.

Masaya Nakamura, on the other hand, led Namco until 2002, when he stepped down to serve as an honorary advisor. He maintained this position even after the 2005 merger with Bandai and until his death.

Nakamura received the Order of the Rising Sun from the Japanese government in 2007, and in 2010, he was inducted into the International Video Game Hall of Fame. He was among the 100 richest people in Japan when he passed away.

Source: The New York Times